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Tobacco display ban plan unveiled

21 May 08 16:05 GMT

Plans to ban the open display of cigarettes in shops have been announced by the Scottish Government.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison said giving them "pride of place" on shelves did not fit with the drive to tackle smoking-related illness.

It is two years since Scotland led the UK in banning smoking in public places, and six months since the legal age for buying cigarettes was raised to 18.

Pro-smoking campaigners said the plans would not cut the habit.

Ms Robison announced a series of other measures to the Scottish Parliament, which also include tobacco licensing and outlawing the sale of cigarettes in packs of 10.

Several areas of the action plan, welcomed by anti-smoking group Ash Scotland, will need to be taken forward with support from the UK Government.

Legislation is likely to be brought forward in 2009.

Ms Robison told MSPs: "Despite tobacco advertising having been banned in 2002, there are growing concerns that prominent displays of cigarettes and other tobacco products in shops and other points of sale are undermining our wider tobacco control efforts to denormalise smoking."

The minister said she recognised concern in the retail sector about banning displays, but said they were clearly being used as a promotional tool, telling parliament similar moves in other countries had not seen a dramatic impact on businesses.

"The protection of children and young people from the impact of tobacco must be paramount and there are instances - and this is one - when the benefits to the public health of the nation must take precedence," she said.

Smoking - one of Scotland's biggest killers - is responsible for about 13,000 deaths and 33,500 hospital admissions each year at a cost of £200m to the health service.

But hitting out at the plans, Neil Rafferty of pro-smoking group Forest, said: "We will soon be living in a country where pornographic magazines will be on display in shops and not cigarettes.

"These measures are about making smokers feel bad about themselves and encouraging society to shun them until they learn to behave in a government-approved way."

But NHS public health director Laurence Gruer said the action plan was the right package of "tough but sensible" measures to tackle smoking addiction.

Ash Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy added: "At present, nearly a quarter of adults in Scotland die early from tobacco-related diseases."

She went on: "Promotional displays in shops are one of the last bastions of tobacco marketing. Putting cigarettes out of sight will support smokers who are trying to quit and reduce the tobacco industry's influence on children."

Elspeth Lee, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco control, said: "We strongly welcome these proposals which will help reduce the numbers of smokers and improve the health of the country now and for future generations."

The government plan was welcomed by opposition parties, although Labour public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson warned some anti-smoking budgets were "flat lining", while the Tories' Jackson Carlaw said action to deter youngsters from taking up smoking should start with parents.

The Liberal Democrats urged the government enforce the plans as soon as possible.

Dr Andrew Buist, of the British Medical Association's Scottish council, urged Westminster to get behind the Scottish plan, adding: "Tackling children's addiction to tobacco is rightly a top priority for this government. A lifetime addicted to tobacco is a death sentence."

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